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Palestine welcomes French initiative on Israel-Palestinian peace process

AP , AFP , Thursday 21 Apr 2016
File Photo of Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. (Photo: Reuters)

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Thursday that they strongly support a French initiative to hold a ministerial meeting, probably on May 30, as a first step to an international conference aimed at reviving the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try and relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday.

But in an interview with four newspapers, including Israel's Haaretz and pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the minister said Israel and the Palestinians would not be invited to the Paris meeting.

Ayrault said the aim was to prepare an international summit in the second half of 2016, which would include the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

"The two sides are further apart than ever," he admitted.

But he said: "There is no other solution to the conflict than establishing two states, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, living side by side in peace and safety with Jerusalem as a shared capital.

"We cannot do nothing," Ayrault told the newspapers, which also included France's Liberation and the Wall Street Journal.

"We have to act before it's too late."

He said the discussions would be based on the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, which was largely ignored by Israel.

Drawn by oil kingpin Saudi Arabia, the Arab Peace Initiative called on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem, in exchange for a normalisation of ties with Arab countries.

It also outlined the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and envisaged a "just solution" of the refugee issue.

"In Israel, the government is more and more ambiguous on the issue of a two-state solution and the Palestinians are more and more divided," he said.

"We have to explain to the Israelis that settlement activity is a dangerous process and that it puts their own security in danger."

The initiative was announced in February by Ayrault's predecessor Laurent Fabius.

"I am not naive, I am perfectly sincere," he said.

"There is no alternative -- the other option is fatalism and I reject that."

A former French ambassador to Washington, Pierre Vimont, has been given the job of preparing the meetings.

France's former foreign minister Fabius said in January that the government was planning to host an international conference to bring Israel and the Palestinians together along with their American, European and Arab partners in order "to make happen a two-state solution."

If the attempt faces a deadlock, Fabius said, France will recognize a Palestinian state.

US Secretary of State John Kerry gave the French proposal a guarded welcome when he visited Paris in March.

Kerry brokered a previous round of Israel-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed in April 2014.

"Not any one country or one person can resolve this. This is going to require the global community, it will require international support," Kerry said.

*The story was edited by Ahram Online.

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